Big Split in Bayou: Blacks, Conservatives Drive La. Vote

An abundance of older white voters gave Hillary Clinton some help in the Louisiana Democratic primary Saturday, although not nearly enough to seriously challenge Barack Obama's vast advantage among African-Americans in the state.

On the Republican side, a record turnout of self-described "very" conservative voters — their greatest share in any 2008 primary to date — boosted Mike Huckabee, as did young voters and the majority presence of evangelicals, his core support group.

But older voters kept John McCain competitive, as did the nearly three in 10 who were focused on experience and electability. Huckabee won young voters by 22 points, but McCain won seniors by 14 points — and they were more than twice as prevalent.

There were no exit polls in Saturday's caucuses, in Washington, Nebraska, Kansas and the Virgin Islands.

Big Split in the Bayou

In Louisiana, the Democratic results extended the sharp racial split that divides the party.

Clinton won whites — men and women alike — by a 28-point margin, 58-30 percent. Obama answered with more than 6-1 support among blacks, 86-13 percent; at 48 percent of Democratic voters, they proved an unassailable voting bloc.

Louisiana's share of black voters has been surpassed only in South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, all states Obama also won.

Here as elsewhere, the presence of blacks in the Democratic primary stands in sharp contrast to their absence in Republican contests — just 4 percent in Louisiana, and just 2 percent in all GOP races to date this year, versus 19 percent in all Democratic contests combined.

Youth Miss Vote Again

Young voters, a generally pro-Obama group, were in short supply, with under-30s accounting for just 10 percent of the turnout, toward the low end in Democratic primaries this year.

Twice as many were 65 and older, and white seniors — a Clinton group by 69-24 percent — outnumbered black seniors by more than 2-1. (While elsewhere Clinton has been particularly strong among older white women, in Louisiana she did well among older white men and women alike.)

There were relatively few late deciders — only about one in 10 decided on election day, while 51 percent said they made up their minds more than a month ago, more than in almost any previous primary.

Obama won all the time-of-decision groups, but those who decided between last week and the last month went for him most heavily by far.

Less Liberal, Economy on Top

The Louisiana Democratic electorate was notably less liberal than elsewhere – about a third identified themselves as liberals, compared with 49 percent in all primaries to date.

Obama generally has done better with liberals, but in Louisiana he did as well among moderate and conservative Democrats.

The top issue in Louisiana, as elsewhere, was the economy.

Nearly half of Democrats called it the single most important issue in their vote; about three in 10 said it was the war in Iraq; about two in 10, health care.

And, again as elsewhere, by far the most desired candidate attribute was the one who can best "bring about needed change"; it beat both empathy and experience by 40-point margins, and Obama won those "change" voters by 74-21 percent.

Obama's advantage among blacks crossed other demographic lines; among whites, though, there was one notable difference: He did much better among white independents (45 percent support, though they were few in number) than among white Democrats, 25 percent.

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